In the Court of the King (Always open, world building exercises)

Let's try and build a fantasy world.

This is an improve exercise of sorts. We take the simplest of setups, in this case as the title suggests you've gained an audience with the king of part of this fantasy land and from there we use the interaction between characters to develop the world (History, culture mythology nature all is up to you).

For example maybe you're an ambassador from another country who wants to talk or a prophet bringing news from a new god.

Whatever your story for some reason you've managed (or been forced) to get an audience with the King.
So speak quickly, Royalty is waiting.

You're free for all to come and go as you like, talk to the king or other characters, just give a brief description of your appearance in your first post (enough to give other players a way to identify you).

Apart from that, don't be a dick and try to respect what's already been established in terms of lore.

So now without further ado.

Lights, camera action

It's a grand stone room; there are more dead things in the form of pelts and heads lining the walls than there are living in here. But they aren't new, dust, age and generations of moths have eroded the sheen off any of the former beasts.

Outside cracked and faded stained glass, there's a visible night sky, splattered with a spray of stars and an array of other aerial objects. The ceiling is low for the type of building, barely a few metres, with the floor raised slightly at one end for the special chair.

Then sitting sullenly slumped in a threadbare throne is an old looking man. His clothes were formerly fancy but have fallen into disrepair. At the opposite end of the rectangular room is the sort of imposing door that has probably seen more sieges than the rest of the castle combined.

The king looks listlessly, his eyes faded and peering off into two separate points of space (maybe even time). He sighs, the slight sound carrying the length room, a good 30 yards.

The near dead silence is roused when, like a gun shot, a knock at the door resounds across the length of their grey chamber. The King snaps back into reality. His gaze now fixed on the great gate.

His voice is withered but still makes it intelligibly to the door, the bones of authority not yet rotted away.

"Yes?"

A second voice responds from beyond the door, this one smooth as snake oil.

"Someone to see you my lord."

The prospect of someone coming to see the king was enough of an even in itself to warrant interest.

"Well then let them in."

As the apparently ancient royal adjusts the adorned crown awaiting the arrival or new faces, he wonders one question more than any others.

Why on earth would someone come to see me?
Maybe they were looking for that other castle.

"Well then let them in." A voice called through the thick wooden doors. Amel couldn't believe the words if truth was told. He knew the kingdom had seen better days, but for the king himself to willingly see someone such as he... it was miraculous.

As the doors began to open before him, Amel pulled his necklace - small, crudely carved piece of wood that was attached to a line of horse hair and shaped as a dove in flight - from around his neck up to his lips. He kissed it for luck, muttering a pray. "Juliavaliarous, oh merciful and just, please lend me your aid but this once and I shall worship you for all my days. Goddess of Redemption, please lead me through this time of trouble to your arms." he said, stumbling over the words, trying to make the contract with the goddess in his hour of need.

Amel had never been a faithful man; the costs were too great. To devote yourself to a god, to beg for their help, was the last resort of the desperate. The gods would help you - of this there was no doubt - but the gods were capricious and demanded a return for their help. If Juliavalarous granted her aid, his mission would succeed, but no one could say what she would demand in return. Despite her many praises, no gods were ever so merciful to grant their power for free.

When the door came to a halt with a loud bang, Amel stepped forward cautiously; unsure of what to expect. He lowered his head, trying not to look at the king. He could however make out the state of the throne room. Its threads were bear, its finery gone, its grandeur lost. Perhaps forever.

Just like the rest of the Kingdom.

Still, compared to Amel - dressed in rags that barely left him with decency, unwashed and ill fit for a castle, the room seemed the apex of wealth and decadence. Here was his chance; he took it without delay. "Oh great king, master of these lands, I, Amel of the city of Hendror, beg your audience and your mercy. Yesterday in the market, my daughter in her youth, stole bread from a baker." he said then paused - waiting for the intake of air, the shocks and gasps, the accusations of his horrible parenting, and worse. He waited, then continued. "She is but 6 years of age this past spring and was hungry. She new not better or how precious such foods are these days. But these sins are mine. I beg you, great and merciful king, free my daughter to her mother and I shall take her place. I am strong of body and spirit and my father and his father taught me the ways of farming. I can help grow the precious foods, or work the mines, or anything you see fit. I'll even take her place at the hangman's noose if you ask, but please spare her in these troubled times."

Amel then dropped to the floor, prostrating himself before the mighty king, begging both he and his goddess master for what aid they could give with all his might. "Please, she is my only child." he said, begging, throwing what little pride he had left to the wind. He would save her or...

He WOULD save her!

A small knock was heard on the front door. Followed by a louder knock. Any guard that went near the door came back without a word and simply began standing post again. They were trying to ignore him. Why had he come again? The fool had no reason to even be near the king and with the food shortage, his time was better spent in agriculture. Still, he had demanded an audience with the king. After a while, the knocking stopped, only to be replaced with loud banging. Whoever it was behind the walls was now charging shoulder first into the gated door. The guards looked at one another with a disdain they knew too well.

"Should we let the damned fool in?"

"Might as well. Bastard's persistent that's for sure."

"But, he is one of those, what if he-"

"If he was going to, he already would have."

"Fine."

The guards unbarred the doors and a series of mechanical locks came undone and a figure came tumbling into the room with the grace and elegance of a dying ostrich. He was on the ground, sporting unusually flamboyant clothes that even the king would question. White gown with a crown and scepter, all of them studded with odd jewels and stones that were pretty clearly fake. He quickly gathered his composure and yelled out in a shrill voice.

"A LOTHROT ALWAYS GETS WHAT HE WANTS!"

The guards shook their heads and lowered their weapons. "Damned Lothrots, never know what they are planning."

The man began "My liege, I am Nuzio, of the Lothrots, here to ask a question of most importance! What is the question? Well, that will come in good time. Tell me, how is the place being kept?" Nuzio was dusting himself off, seemingly oblivious of the prisoner next to him. "I tell you, your guards are quite rude. I recommend you send them to some kind of camp...or something. Nuzio went to camp once, not a fun time! Worms everywhere, had to change my socks constantly and there was always a draft!"

Nuzio pranced over to the king and raised his scepter. "So, will you heed the call of the Lothrots?"

The mercenary stood outside the doors to the throne room, a sword and shield on his back. Wearing heavy black armor with red outlines and heavy fur around his neck he was quite intimidating. He had been recently banned from the Mercenary Guild: Adventure, for having different methods, outside the norm of the guild.

However before that he was looked down upon the head guild members for being one of the Branded. He had entered the service of The Shadows, an unknown and malevolent group who wishes to become God Slayers. Personally he didn't care much for the whole God business, hell he wasn't even sure they existed. Although their presence in the heart of the people seems to be the norm.

The Brand gave him powers that apparently used to slay Gods as the Shadows spoke, however he used them to instead give him an advantage over bandits and those who try and stop him from completing a job. However the power was taxing and was hardly a free pass and despite it had still nearly been killed on some Advanced Contracts.
However while it wasn't the greatest on people, the Brand magic had a strong effect on the Northern Giants which roam the land attacking the villages mindlessly. They had become a thorn in the side of the kingdom in recent years and had helped push the food shortage where it is now.

Anyway, he was now here in the castle and soon was to meet with the King. His current situation was now in need of some... Noble intervention. Out of Adventure and with The Shadow's goons after his life for abandoning his work had cause him to learn to sleep with one eye open and sleep restless nights.

However it seemed the king was busy, two men had entered so far but neither had come out. One a desperate looking man and the other being a Lothrot. Personally he wasn't a fan of the Lothrot, found them suspicious and too eccentric, he hadn't seen too many since they weren't common but the few he had seen all had been powerful and eccentric about themselves.

Until the two of them came out, Ryo would stand there, waiting patiently for his turn.

Darek paced as he waited in the King's parlor. It was as splendid construction, hewn from the finest Shaen marble and decorated with luxurious furniture crafted from a rich brown oak. The stewards made sure to point out that the wood came from Ronar's famous Shivering Forest - being a bit pushy as they did so, as a matter of fact. He couldn't blame them - his people's reputation for being fickle wasn't entirely undeserved.

It didn't make it any less annoying, though.

He shifted about in his dress armor. The stuff was minimal, even by Ronari standards - just the cuirass from his normal field gear polished to a mirror shine in addition to a blue robe. He could feel the stares of this land's nobles looking down on him, judging him a savage for not spending his sacred valley's resources on looking like a gaudy showhorse.

Bastards.

"Baldrek, where is this audience you promised me? I didn't come all the way from Ronar to sit on my ass." He shot an annoyed glare at the knight, who responded in turn. "Soon enough." Darek scoffed at the knight's evasion but let the matter drop - he was on a diplomatic mission, and getting into an argument with one of the King's knights wasn't the best way to start making friends. He continued his pacing, letting his mind wander a bit as he did so. "Seeing as I won't be talking to your king anytime soon, I think I'll be taking a walk." Baldrek made a motion to protest, but another annoyed glare from Darek made him hesitate. Darek could see him motion for his weapon, and he let his gaze harden further. "I would recommend against that course of action, Baldrek. Or would you like a demonstration as to WHY your good king isn't stupid enough to march an army into our sacred Valley?" He made a point of tapping the sword strapped to his side, flashing the symbol on the side - the coat of arms of Ronar's famous Proven Legion.

Darek wasn't surprised to see Baldrek back down, taking his hand off his sword's hilt. Unproven were all the same - they liked to act tough, but when the chips were down...

"I won't be causing any trouble - provided, of course, your court isn't foolish enough to start any." He strode out of the parlor, projecting confidence and power as he went. Entering the foyer, he saw a man dressed in typical mercenary armor. He stuck out from the rest of the castle's armed retainer like a sore thumb - the knights walked about in shining metal armor, and here was an unassuming man in slightly dirty chainmail. Not terribly interested in starting a conversation with one of the court's boring aristocrats, Darek approached the strange man. "Hail. What brings you here?"

Through the castle gates, came a caravan, filled with merchants and ambassadors of the Kathins. It has been many generations since Kathins been seen in land. The few survivors of the war were driven off from the continent, after rejecting magic and the gods. Many fought the furballs, heretics and scoundrels even before the Great Heresy. They were so weak, so little short, so little magic, only their cleverness and cowardly scheming had held off their destined downfall, their severing from the mystical realm entirely.

However, they had returned. They had attacked and conquered several costal cities, mostly of the neighboring nation of Howlic and independent city states, unprepared for such assaults. Whispers and rumors stated their ships threw fire farther than any mage could, and every soldier was said to wield a stick of thunder superior to any weapon a knight wields. Most ignored these rumors, impossible fantasy.

Yet, here the caravan is. Half the soldiers wield long pikes, marching on the outer edge of the diplomatic convoy, while marching inside of them and sitting on top of several of the carriages stood Kathins wielding odd tubes, of metal and wood, keeping a constant eye any man who ever wielded a bow as a sentry would know.

Several carts followed, filled with odd goods, metal objects that were finer than any local metal smith could dream of.

The Caravan pulled up the Keep.

"We, ambassadors of the Republic of Torin," said Aldonia, the head of the Caravan, a chubby Kathin wearing blue robes over brown fur, said to the gate guards of the Keep, "Seek an audience with the king, as per the treaties set up in old, to reopen trade between our people and to honor our new holdings near these lands."

The doors opened, allowing three ambassadors and four guards (two pikemen, two wielding the "weapons of thunder"), as per the treaties signed in old. The Guards were not sure they apply to traitors of the Gods, but that would be for the king to work out, not them. The rest of the Caravan sat themselves in the city square, setting up to trade with the local populace.

"Uggh..."

The rattle of chains on marble. The sigh of a dead man. Guards nodded to each other and opened the giant doors, Siorus groaned as they marked his entrance into the palace with a kick. He fell, and was pulled up by rough hands. Such a criminal as he would not walk with his own legs in the palace. He was dragged. Apart from the chains and the guards, the man was dressed in rough rags, his face and other parts of his body were hidden by an array of bload-soaked bandages. Another groan of pain escaped his lips. Not from the chains or the guards this time, but from his condition.

The Withering - a curse reserved for those who crossed the gods. Yes, he had made a Contract with one of them. Yes, the price was too great. And so the Antlered God - Cern who ruled nature with his partner, Ceres - had placed the curse on him. Over the course of a few years, Siorus grew ever thinner, his flesh became bark-like and the power Cern had given him faded away. Usually, people with this curse were killed on sight as a bitter act of mercy. Siorus knew when he died, his soul would go to Cern and the Antlered God would torture him for eternity. His was a marked soul.

Siorus tried to lift his head. It hurt to move. The dry skin would crack up and spew blood, almost like a tree and sap. They said the Withering was different for every god. Even the more kind ones had something special reserved for those who crossed them. No wonder some joined the Shadows. Siorus himself had the Brand, though it was now hard to see past the bandages and withered skin. In that way it was a gift. Though they would probably strip him naked soon in the dungeon chambers. All he had wanted was to be a decent hunter, to feed his starving family, to keep the wolves and worse-than-wolves at bay...

Cern had given him what he wanted, but demanded that every child born thereafter would be left in the wilds as a sacrifice to him. It had been a bountiful year and his firstborn now had two sisters and a brother. He loved them dearly, so as a father he had no choice but to refuse. Siorus exiled himself from his lush homeland of Wrydd that clung to the edges of a great forest and came across the Shadows. Sympathetic, he joined their cause. The Shadows then pointed him towards a set of ancient ruins, thought to hold an item of great power. Turns out, the king in his wisdom had it filled with guards and magical wards and so he was caught.

But not before he heard the whispers... Whispers that came from the well at the centre of the ruins. Whispers from an entity that claimed to have great power. More than all of the gods combined even. Ironic that Siorus had found a way to freedom where he was chained. However, he only had a name and a promise to go on. "I am Ao. I too wish for freedom. Let us forge a pact. For the time of contracts and petty gods has come to an end. The only thing I ask of you is to become my prophet and I in turn will watch over you..." But it was a promise backed by power. Power Siorus would use to escape... A whisper escaped from his broken lips.

"Soon... Soon.. Ao... Soon..."

They were supposed to kill it when they first laid their eyes on the creature, yet the commander of the squad couldn't make the order. It cost them the lives of three of their dearest brothers, but the pack of ranger caught the ferocious creature alive and restrained it so it could hurt no one. The bipedal, furry, fifteen feet tall predator-like creature lacked a name, but the ranger gave it one anyway - a wolfman. It was a strange creature, even for the vicious woods beyond the Wyllt river. Its dog-like head shifted from left to right as the creature examined its surroundings. They dragged the beast to the King, heaven knows why still alive, for some curious reason.

It was burdened with two scores of heavy chains and a muzzle to keep its jaws closed. The rangers prodded it with sticks and spears so it would slowly push itself in the direction they desired it to go. The wolfman amazed those who witnessed him on his way to the King himself. They numbered eleven men, led by their young leader Anemor. The ranger pack was known as a mercenary group as well, offering their bows and expertise to the highest bidder. The guards at the entrance shook in fear and gaped in awe at the tremendous creature. They opened the gates without questions, heeding the call of Anemor and his news of a contract well done. The different folk at the line to meeting the king all stared at the beast in a mixture of confusion, curiosity and fear.

"Open the damn gates and let us in!". Aremor declared before the bewildered guards at the entrance to the king's chambers. They proceeded to open the gates after being presented with a written letter by his majesty ordering the exchange. The other ten rangers were all anxious to finish their contract and retire to their leisure with the generous bounty the king had to offer.

The king waved his hand and the poor man was whisked away with his request granted. He never had the time for such petty problems.

"Glorious King, we have completed our contract". Aremor declared gleefully.

"The beast, a wolfman, was retrieved as you asked". Another ranger spoke up.

It was then that the creature started to resist its chains. The once hardy steel was shattered into nothing in seconds, and the muzzle on the mouth of the beast was broken in a heartbeat. The restrictions imposed on the creature were gone in a matter of seconds to the amazement of all of those in the hall, except for the king.

"Arrrrgh!". It cried out in frustration as the creature pushed away the rangers who proceeded to stab it with their weapons.

"Tell those idiots to stand down!". He shouted in the tongue of man. The king raised his hand and waved it to the side, silencing the mortals around the beast.

"I came at your request, but the escort was horrible. These bastards wouldn't stop poking me".

The king smiled as his old acquaintance complained to him about his travel arrangements. He hasn't changed a bit for the last twenty years. He waved his hand at the mercenary band, "Leave, 'tis a private matter", and the rangers left without saying a word.

"Your Lupo is here. My brothers and sisters eagerly await to hear of your news". The wolfman - or Lupo, as it calls itself, bowed down in the presence of the king and then raised itself.

"It is a matter of cunning more than strength, but the task is dire. Something is trying to topple my reign!". The king growled in anger, and the Lupo straightened his ears as a result.

"I heard about the droughts, but never did I-". The Lupo spoke, but was interrupted by the King himself.

"A damned warlock in pact with Ceres, or some other accursed minor god is at fault!". The king stopped for a moment as he realized there were others in the hall he didn't address.

The Lupo opened his mouth and let his tongue slide out in joy. A lothrot was standing right at his side, and he was eager to make him its dinner.

"You seem to have a knack for staying undetected, little lothrot...". The Lupo spoke quickly, as if it was in a rush.

TheIronRuler:

Snip

Well there's a surprise, the king had been expecting one or two but now an entire crowd was building in his court. There was a strange swell of power; the opinions of royalty were seldom sought in the democratic days of the council. The crown on his head was still worth more than its components and craftsmanship but by less and less each day.

He'd been a bit overwhelmed by all the people entering but it was about time he gave his royal responses.

First come first served so he addressed Amel.

"Stand and do not condescend me with false respect.

You know the law, she stole his bread so her life is his to take or use as he pleases until the debt is paid. But, these are modern times, with luck he'll see sense and be willing to trade you look strong; your servitude should suffice."

Wait Lothrot? Strange, they were mostly solitary buggers. That one had made it through the grand bazars of his fair city without getting arrested was quite the feat.
"The call? Or should that be calls? If you want to be taken seriously politically as a group I'd recommend you get some form of cohesive order first, or at least before you start making demands of me.

Is there anyone else?"

He calls out to the door.

The official sounding voice from before spoke again.

"There's a withered one, and some mercenary."

The king swore under his breath.

"By Serragish what are you doing letting a withered one in here, why invite the scorn of the deep heavens? Especially after the harvest's we'd had these past years. Bring him in, and any others out there, I may as well see what they want if I'm suddenly to have authority again."

"The call? Or should that be calls? If you want to be taken seriously politically as a group I'd recommend you get some form of cohesive order first, or at least before you start making demands of me."

Nuzio laughed a loud and happy sounding laugh. "We are no political group you see! We simply seek simplicity. The questions I have for you are hard for sure, but if we can decipher if we work...together!"

Nuzio always loved rhymes, riddles and whatever came to mind. Such games always passed...the time.

"You seem to have a knack for staying undetected, little lothrot...".

"How rude!"

The Lothrot lowered his scepter down upon the head of the Lupo. A kind bop on the head to remind the creature its place. "I am no mere Lothrot you see! I am the King of all Lothrots! You shall obey my commands and so forth!" Nuzio made wooshy noises and started wiggling his fingers as if he was trying to use the force to make the Lubo kneel.

"That'll hold ya!" Nuzio then turned to the King and said. "Continuing, I, the Prince of all Lothrots am here and have some questions for you."

Aldonia stood outside the King's chamber. Yelling and screaming came from within. This was not good. Political discourse did not go well if the King was in a bad move. Hopefully he would still respect the treaties, even though they technically may not apply to Kathins anymore.

The guards were looking at them strangely, hands tight on their weapons, every move being watched. The treaties allowed four guards for three ambassadors, partly as a symbol of strength, partly to make it so assassination would be more difficult. Still, four Kathins would not be able to take on the entire castle alone. Still, kill the diplomats, and war would be declared.

This was a dicy situation, but the treaties also demanded they must go on with this.

One yell was particularly interesting...

"...I may as well see what they want if I'm suddenly to have authority again."

So, the king does not has absolute authority anymore? Who does?

Aldonia spotted the withered in the chamber. While the state of the cursed skin was terrible, Aldonia felt sorry for him, knowing what it is like to be cursed by the gods...

"Yes, soon my prophet... But as you can see, pieces have yet to fall into place..."

Another sigh was his response to his god. Siorus and the guards were stunned after that particular set of sights. Rangers were rarely seen these days, let alone a creature of the forest depths. The squad must have been the last reserves, seemingly sent on a suicide mission to fetch that creature. Though, with seeing the creature in chains, Siorus couldn't help but feel a bout of sympathy for it. Another kick from the guards, another fall and another yank of the chain signaled that it was time to move, or be dragged again by the guards. Siorus mostly ignored their jibes. Barbed words did not hurt as much as barbed chains at least.

On entering the throne room Siorus heard snippets of quite a curious conversation, and with it all sympathy for the wolf-like creature was lost. As painful as it was, Siorus frowned. But he had no choice but to have faith in his god, even with these poor circumstances. He clutched the amulet, the only thing that the guards let him keep. In response one of the guards punched him, and said something and silly superstitions. The pain caused the bandaged man to release his grip and the force whacked his arm away. The other guard smiled and forced Siorus to bow, the sabaton's tapered point just a few milimetres away from Siorus's neck.

The gaggle of the other guards' and some of the other visitors', not to mention the king's, eyes were now on him. However, Siorus could not say much while his mouth was on the floor. At least it was marble. At least he wasn't eating dirt. But he was here to deliver a message. If the authorities deemed it necessary for him to be executed on the spot here, then so be it. Siorus steeled himself for death, and what lay beyond. He closed his inadequate eyes and waited for the weight of the sabaton to be replaced with cold edge of a sword or an axe. However it was released and Siorus was free to stand. Someone somewhere must have given a subtle signal.

With a slient prayer of thanks to Ao, he slowly stood up. A man once with a figure shaped by hunting but now reduced to a thin twig. He groaned as he made the slow ascent onto his feet. Siorus found his strength had left him and fell, again. Another guard cursed and went over to help Siorus up and made sure he stayed there, supporting Siorus arm around waist. Siorus bowed his head to the king and began to start, only to find his voice would go no louder than a whisper. Sighing he whispered his message to the kind guard, praying that his kindness would continue and his message would be relayed faithfully.

"Sire." The kind guard began, "This man speaks of an 'Overgod' that may be able to help us. He says that he is the prophet of this deity and that it seeks unity. One god, one empire... One empire with you as emperor even. He says all we have to do is accept Ao, the Absolute, into our hearts and only Ao. That we must discard these other deities that only cause trouble for us like this famine. And the cause of the famine is indeed the fault of the warring gods. He says to choose unity, to choose peace, to choose a future for this kingdom. But, the choice is yours and the fact that you are listening to his words is enough for him."

"Do not worry if he rejects us, my prophet. Humans can be as petty as my warring siblings sometimes..."

avouleance2nd:
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TheIronRuler:

avouleance2nd:
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"Stand and do not condescend me with false respect." the king began. Amel's head shot up in fear and dismay. Amel wasn't sure how it happened, but his speech had angered his king. "False respect? Amel thought, his dismay making room for confusion. Its true he was desperate and had come to his king out of the desperation but he'd never meant disrespect or tried to fake its antithesis - his respect had been true.

"You know the law, she stole his bread so her life is his to take or use as he pleases until the debt is paid. But, these are modern times, with luck he'll see sense and be willing to trade you look strong; your servitude should suffice." Fear gripped Amel's heart at that moment, followed shortly by anger. Here he was, before the king of the land, having traveled far to see him and save his daughter. Did the noble man think he'd not tried that? Did he believe Amel would empty what little savings he had so frivolously to enter the castle were it so easy to remove the charges? Did he, the king of all Amel had ever known not see how the famine had gripped the land, driving men from their senses and morals? Had he no mercy?

Amel clenched his fist, the rage in his blood growing stronger by the moment, but remained still; like the air before a great storm. The kingdom may be facing hard times, but even a simple, unarmed farmer couldn't fight his way through guards and mercenaries and worse; no matter how much bloodlust ran through his veins. Even if he could, it would be meaningless; what would petty revenge against a merciless overlord accomplish for his daughter?

Nothing

Amel's fist loosened, his rage repressed for the moment. In the void left by its departure, despair took root. It grew like a wicked weed within the fields of his soul, killing all which once was there. Only a small light of hope remained - a distant goddess who might see some use for him and grant his wish. A wish with dire consequences no doubt.

Amel stood slowly, broken as he was, and bowed slightly before the uncaring king. Amel muttered "Thank you for your time" - his voice cracking from the strain - before turning from the court and exiting the throne room. As he left, he could not help but adjust his opinion of the room. When he entered he saw a king suffering with his subjects, his throne room as diminished as the kingdom. Now he saw nothing but the decadence of the wealthy and powerful; living well in spite - and off - the suffering nation.

Amel left for the gallows to see his daughter for what was most likely the last time; praying with every step for a contract.

Ryo looked at the man who approached him, "Hail. What brings you here?"

The mercenary first cleared his throat, "I come here in hope to get some 'Noble' intervention to possibly aid me in stopping the Shadows for which wish to kill me. What about you? What are you doing here?"

Nuzio seemed bored with the king. No, someone far more interesting had just left the room. One, Amel. The Lothrot quickly turned to the king again and said "Sorry for wasting my time, someone more interesting just left. I will be on my way. Please be more courteous to your guests in the future. You have officially bored the Duke of Lothrots!"

The man in white pranced out of the throne room, seemingly excited and quickly caught up to Amel. The man seemed to burn with rage and contempt for everyone. Perhaps it had something to do with his daughter? Nuzio couldn't tell, he was bad with those kinds of things. He tapped Amel on the shoulder, though it was clear the man was aware of him at this point. "Excuse me kind...man. I hope you would be kind anyway, you seem to be having a bit of a problem. The Lothrots are willing to exchange their help in this matter if you are willing to answer the question."

"I come here in hope to get some 'Noble' intervention to possibly aid me in stopping the Shadows for which wish to kill me." Oh, so he had upset those lunatics. Darek rolled his eyes - there was a reason most churches from down south weren't allowed in Ronar. Too much trouble, if you asked him. Besides, the whole business with contracts ran contrary to the Ronari spirit. A true man should succeed or fail on his own merits, not on the fiat of some overmighty god.

"What about you? What are you doing here?" Darek frowned at his returned question. He was still miffed that his audience had been so rudely delayed, but there was no need to unload his frustrations on a random stranger. Still...

"The good king has seen fit to have me sit on my ass for the last hour. He sends an envoy to Ardern asking to talk, and this his how he treats guests!? I wouldn't have bothered coming if..." He started to vent, but managed to catch himself. Now was not the place to make a scene - at least, not yet. "Forgive me. Er... I seem to have forgotten my manners. I'm Darek Rhode, envoy from the Freedmen."

Amel felt a tap on the shoulder as he was leaving but ignored it in his despair. It wasn't until a voice followed that he acknowledged the presence. "Excuse me kind...man. I hope you would be kind anyway, you seem to be having a bit of a problem. The Lothrots are willing to exchange their help in this matter if you are willing to answer the question." A voice asked, forcing his attention.

Amel turned around and immediately found himself fact-to-face with the Lothrot king... prince... duke... who'd been petitioning the king as well. He didn't know much about the Lothrot save they were humans with a kind of weird magic. That, and they were as eccentric and untrustworthy as they came. Still, Amel was desperate and looking a gift horse in the mouth was in bad taste. "If you can save my daughter, I'll answer any question you have. But, I'm a simple farmer - I don't know if I have the answer you're looking for; especially since I don't know the question."

Amel waited to hear the response; maybe things would work out...

Well that problem solved itself surprisingly quickly. The king wasn't without sympathy but he could hardly go around undermining the law, for one the council wouldn't be happy.

The prophet had spoken, the king considered.

"And why this god any opposed of the others? There are more gods below our feet than bodies. The earth is full of them, how can I tell your one god is superior? You must know your myths they've been fighting for as long as Serragish was cold."

While he awaited the response he thought it best to check how many others were waiting on him.

"Was there anyone else?" He calls again.

"A mercenary sir and a Ronari. Shall I send them both in?"

"Of course."

"And why this god any opposed of the others? There are more gods below our feet than bodies. The earth is full of them, how can I tell your one god is superior? You must know your myths they've been fighting for as long as Serragish was cold."

The man was doubtful. A long time ago, Siorus could understand that sentiment. Few had what it took to take a leap of faith and even fewer had what it took to repay the contracted god in full. Still, a monarch without faith. That was a bad sign for the kingdom, no matter what the current circumstances were. The king was treating this as a business transaction - quid pro quo - and not as the promise of salvation that it was. A result of millennia of contracts and of many a half-baked prophet announcing the dawn of a new age and a new divinity, no doubt. Inside, Siorus cursed himself for being so stupid. Nothing worthwhile is easy, after all.

Siorus lowered his head again. Was the king even in a position to barter with the divine over the terms and conditions of salvation? Sirous's heart ached as he realised the irony. Here he was thinking of sacrifice for the greater good. Here he was, questioning a man for questioning the divine. He, himself, had questioned Cern. Objected to the price he had to pay, even. That was how he had ended up in this mess. Sobered by that thought, he tried to answer the king again. However, all that came out was a croak. Siorus then coughed, clearing his throat. A raspy whisper of words found their way into the guard's ear once more. He repeated them faithfully.

"Surely you have heard of the First War and the Sundering of Unity, when the gods first chose to oppose one another? The name may be lost in tales of their infighting, but Ao was sealed that day. Now the Overgod wishes to retake his throne, your majesty."

"It is nice to meet you Darek Rhode of Ardern. I am Ryo Irving; I have neither home nor place of origin. A simple mercenary you see who has gotten himself into some... Bad times," he responded back to the envoy. "Never been to Ardern although I have heard of it. As for an audience with the King..."

Ryo trailed off and looked in the direction of the door to the throne room, "It seems his hands are busy to our dismay. Nothing you can do about it," Ryo finished shrugging.

After a brief moment he took out a small scroll and unfolded it and quickly reread it, "Although I do hope we can get this done with soon however. See, I got a job to take out another Giant that stepped on a person's farm and they aren't happy about it. Damn creatures, I swear they sprout like weeds."

Suddenly a guard came up to the two men, "The king will see you both now."

"Heh, well speak of the devil... And both of us, huh, seem to be taking on a bit much."

"A throne he's already lost need I remind you? How about you come back after your god has won?
You've evidently earned their scorn before so I understand your desire to oppose them. But my kingdom is hardly in a position to support an outside bet like that."

A small spinning disk of what looked like metal and a strange, eerie blue light zoomed into the exact center of the room, hovering some 30 feet off the ground. It turned towards the king, and projected the image of a suited man standing right in front of the king. The man looked like an average human, getting on into his 40's, graying brown hair kept short, clean-shaven, fairly attractive if unusually wrinkled for his age, half-rimmed glasses sitting in front of his glowing green eyes. He would fit in perfectly in this world.... if it weren't for his suit, which appeared to be made of unnatural materials, and abnormally form-fitting, and the fact that he was a glowing blue ghost as far as the primitive minds in this throne-room were concerned. The man took a sip from his glass, let out an exasperated sigh, and then addressed the monarch.

"Greetings, your majesty," the man crack a smug grin at the last two words, "I have come to instruct you, sorry... request that you kindly remove your men from your southernmost outpost near Mt. Greyja. They are sitting atop something that catches our attention and..." the glowing man put a hand on the king's shoulder, the hand was surprisingly solid, "dangerous to those with... limited understanding of such things." The glowing man removed his hand, "I thank you for your understanding, your majesty. I'd recommend evacuating that outpost within the month."

Then the glowing man turned his attention to the Ronari ambassador.

"Tell your people that they have our gratitude," he said, walking towards the Ronari, taking another sip from his glass, "For those fascinating rock samples that they... delivered to us." The glowing man set the glass down on an unseen shelf, and it disappeared. The glowing man fixed the ronari with a warm, but stern look, "However, we do not require any more such samples at this time, and would ask that you refrain from sharing them with us for the foreseeable future. Too much of a good thing can lead to a fatal mistake. Your people would do well to remember what became of their... former neighbors."

Darek looked in bewilderment as the blue... thing materialized into the throne room. It arrived with no warning, seemingly from thin air. Yet it wasn't the work of any magic - or, at least, any of which he was aware. He felt his confusion turn to indignation as it addressed him, and he realized its identity - it was one of those Stranger sky-thieves!

"Delivered!? You have some nerve calling that theft by any other word, you insipid coward!" Darek could feel his blood begin to boil. All the insults and frustrations he'd been party to since arriving in this strange land came to a head, let loose by this final grave slight. As his voice rose, the attentive among the kings's court could notice the air around him begin to shift, as though it were waves in a rising storm. "Some of our most sacred pieces of history, their guardians slaughtered and left to rot like common animals! GONE! STOLEN! BY YOUR KIND!"

Then the Stranger reminded him of what happened to Arvenall, the mountain-bound nation to his homeland's east. They had received reports that many of their cities had been reduced to rubble, the surrounding landscape so scorched they could not support even the smallest blade of grass. Some recovered documents indicated the reason for this tragedy to have been their continued refusal to allow the Strangers access to... something.

Any semblance of self-control Darek had left was washed away as the Stranger delivered the threat. He didn't bother drawing his sword. Such a grave insult warranted a demonstration of the reason the Ronar proudly stood for fifteen hundred years against all invaders, regardless of their supposed might. Against the alliances of men. The crusades of gods. The ravages of time, famine, and the world itself.

He let loose their sacred Voice, in all its thundering fury.

"YOU DARE THREATEN THE VALLEY!?" The air boomed at his words, sending a powerful gust of wind through the throne room. The torrent of air around his body intensified, forming a veil of furiously churning wind. "I WILL SAY THIS ONCE, COWARD! IF YOU COME FROM THE SKY, WE WILL SHOUT YOU TO THE GROUND! IF YOU COME FROM BELOW, WE WILL SUNDER THE EARTH AND CAST YOU BACK FROM WHENCE YOU CAME! IF YOU MARCH TO FACE US LIKE MEN, WE WILL DISPATCH YOU - AS WE'VE DISPATCHED ALL INVADERS! ALL FOREIGNERS! ALL SO-CALLED CONQUERORS THAT FOUND OUR HOME TO BE THEIR TOMBS!"

The glowing man was not the slightest bit impressed with the Ronari's outburst.

"Stole?" the glowing man answered, seeming genuinely insulted, "Is that what you call it? As I recall your people loaded those artifacts onto catapults and launched them at us. You should be glad that we are being so gracious about this. And that wasn't a threat. Simply a reminder, and a warning. We currently have no desire to go to war with anyone. We'd prefer not to have to repeat history here. We will not strike the first blow, but we will deliver the last one. And trust me, Ronari, we will, if pushed."

The glowing man paused for his words to sink in.

"As for the Arvenall, we regret the necessity of our actions then, but they simply wouldn't listen to reason. They... would have died out anyway. We simply granted them a quick death. They were sitting on top of a mountain of poison... in essence, they were doomed from the start. We offered to re-locate them to a safer land with no such danger to them, and even to provide them with medical treatment. Their ambassador refused... with an assassination attempt. As did the second, third, and fourth ambassadors that they sent our way. We had no choice. A nation that belligerent would have gone to war with everyone around them eventually. And as I understand it, they were in constant border-skirmishes with your people, Ronari."

The glowing man reached into a pocket from his suit, pulled out a small white/brown cylinder, and a small metal box. He clicked the metal box open and used it to light the small cylinder on fire. Then he put the cylinder in his mouth, and started to inhale. He exhaled just before he spoke again. Judging from his utter non-chalance, he was completely unaffected by the Ronari's use of The Voice, or masking it very well.

"We don't like being stuck here anymore than you do, Ronari. But, neither of us really has a choice in the matter. We're stuck with each other, we might as well try to get along. As for the artifacts that you hurled at us, we will return them if they are that important. Ah, but to avoid another... misunderstanding between our people, we will send a... courier with the drop location directly to each of your Warlords. All will receive the message at the same time, and all will have an equal opportunity to reclaim the artifacts. Is this satisfactory?"

On hearing his majesty's words, Siorus collapsed.

Pain flared up. Tears streamed from his eyes, not only from the pain, but from the king's rejection. Immediately, he bit down and tried to turn his face into a facade of stone. Or would that be bark? Anger soon replaced sadness. Siorus suddenly had an urge to yell. A primal scream at the unfairness of the universe, of this world. However, seeing as people were already shouting, it would be useless. Siorus let himself be the only calm visitor here. The two escort guards quickly pulled him up; nevertheless, they still let his legs lie limp on the floor. A sloppy kneel. Soon another warmth flowed through his body. Not the scorching heat of the pain, but a warm wave that had a relaxing effect. Of course, that could only be Ao.

"My prophet, thou hast not won even once." The voice comforted him.

Regardless of that, the kind guard left the stage, having been replaced by the two persecuters. One dug the metal claws of his gauntlets into Siorus's arm. Blood oozed out like sap from the wound. The other was laughing. Of course they would be laughing. His last request had been rejected and the dungeons, death and worse lay in wait for him. Siorus concentrated on the dull aches that came with every movement of his. Better that than the feeling of failure, the same feeling he felt as he had watched his family starve due to his ineptness at hunting. The same feeling that started this mess. Siorus swallowed. His final fate awaited him, despite Ao's words. Despite the deity's objections to his martyrdom.

"Oi, stop yer squabbling ladies! And wait yer goddamn turn!" One of the two said to the arguing Ronari and Stranger.

"What should we do with this cursed man, then sire?" The other enquired.

Siorus stared in the crowned man's eyes coldly as he awaited his fate. Question was: which one would the king name?

The glowing man ignored the guard and turned his attention to the lothrot ambassador.

"Ah, Nuzio, good to see you again," the glowing man's smirk flickered for a moment, "I trust the Lothrots are doing well?"

The glowing man walked towards the lothrot, still holding that strange cylinder in his mouth. He took it out and threw it into an unseen bin just before he stood next to the lothrot.

"I trust that our agreement is still in place," the glowing man said, his tone making it clear that it was not a question, "And that the lothrots have... adapted to changing circumstances following the last meeting between our people?"

The glowing man glowered at the lothrot briefly. The message should be clear to the ambassador.

 

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